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Monday 28 February 2011

We stood for ages at the waterside.
Gazing. Mesmerised
by having seen.
What had we seen?
And had we seen?
The water heaving
that now is calm.
The present ripples
straight and orderly
swamped by a craze,
alarming patterning
never seen before.
We could not leave.
We stood for ages at the waterside.

Just one of the visual prompts offered by Totalfeckineejit on behalf of this week's Poetry Bus.

Sunday 27 February 2011


Improvise being Writers' Island's one word prompt for this week.

What if the word that I want,
the word so precise in its meaning,
the one that I need
for the thought I am wanting to think,
does not exist?
What then?
Can I still think it?
Or will I be able
to improvise?

And what if words that I want do exist,
but harbour insurgents,
harsh malcontents and saboteurs
who use innuendo
subverting the meanings,
gathering round them
the most undesirable words,
can it be there's a way
to improvise truth from their lies,

creating my meanings
from new combinations,
making it up
whilst I'm making my way?
And what if the thought
has the shape of a word
but is empty of meaning,
cuts a space for new thinking,
can I satisfy it with my makeshift devices?

Everyone is Someone Else : #2


Logic is like a boulder dropped into a torrent: it interrupts the flow of possibilities. The thought strikes him as he is shaving, and the thought changes the whole landscape of his thinking. He begins to talk to his mirror image and is encouraged by the nods he receives in return, despite the fact that he is sure that he is keeping his head still for the cut-throat razor that he's using! "I have been concentrating all this time," he explains, "on the seemingly unlikely possibility that either I am each of the two readers of the book or I am not. That would be the logical situation, but that is wrong. I see it now, it is more unlikely even than that. The dilemma is a false one. The truth of the matter is that I am both of the book's readers AND I am not. And more than that: I am but one person AND I am two people. AND I am three. And that prepares the way for yet another possibility: it occurred to me when thinking of these things in the half-conscious state between sleep and waking, that it would help enormously if the author of the book turned out to be the natural father that I have never known. Do not ask me to explain exactly how this would help, but I have become excited beyond measure by the thought that if he proved to be my father, I would at least be looking at a coherent landscape, one that held together in ways it otherwise does not. The difficulty for me has been a complete lack of any sort of evidence that my father did indeed write the book. Now, though I can say that my father both was AND was not the author."

At this point he resolves to track down the blonde to see what she can tell him. He talks to all those who were at the party, all his friends, all the relatives who were there and his colleagues from work. None of them engaged or invited her. Leastways, none of them will admit to having done so. He is eft with but one alternative: he must track down his other self. The idea worries him, but there is no way to avoid it. The worry stems from his not knowing what might happen in the event of two manifestations of a bi- (or even tri-) located entity meeting.Fancifully, he can't shake off the fear that they might mutually (or -self, whichever is the correct phrase) destruct. More optimistically, he turns his mind to the thought of his father, or his not-father, writing of his wn death. He still cannot comprehend this possibility, and so reminds himself that the death section at least must have been written by an authorial self who survived the other self. On that reckoning at least, it is possible for one to survive the other!

It is at this point that the phrase "mirror-like reflection" comes into his mind. He prefers this to the more awkward "manifestation". It seems to carry more of the characterizations of the concept with which his mind is struggling. He feels now as though he is planning to meet a long-lost brother. No, correction: a clone. He decides not to announce his coming, but to simply appear on the doorstep at the address his "refection" gave in his advertisement in the personal column. He makes several unsuccessful sorties, finding no one in. Then he is luckier. The door is opened to him by a woman claiming to be his reflection's wife. This is a blow. Is his theory beginning to un ravel? According to it, his reflection should be in the same state as himself: living alone. He introduces himself, hesitantly, as best he can, not being sure how informed the woman might be. He need not have worried.

"I know you!" the woman flares angrily. "You are the one who is harassing my husband! You wrote that damned book!"

"I'm not, and I didn't!" he retorts, equally angrily. "I am the one trying to discover who did write 'the damned book'! Where is he, then?"

"Where he's been for the last few nights: trying to find you, but you're always out!" she snapped.

Well, that at least, is how it should be, his reflection doing in reverse what he's been doing.

"And don't try to bedazzle me with more lies," she goes on. "You're the dead split of him. You well could be him!"

"Indeed, I well could be!" he agrees. Then in a moment of inspiration: "how did he come to lose his copy of the book?"

"Lose it? Lose it? What you mean, lose it? He aint lost it, I only wish he had!"

"And you don't know who wrote it, then?"

"If it weren't you, I don't!"

After more angry exchanges they part on the worst terms. He sits in the car for a while, turning things over in his head. If she was telling the truth and he did not lose his copy of the book, then that is the biggest blow yet to his theory, and things were indeed beginning o unravel. But why would he have lied? Perhaps because he had been engineering the whole thing from the beginning, had arranged the gift of the book by the woman on the white horse, and then arranged its loss, though how he might have accomplished that is none to easy to imagine. On the other hand, why would she have lied? Still thinking on these things he starts to drive away, but then meets himself coming from the opposite direction. On impulse he turns right at the next junction instead of going straight on. He drives for twenty miles or so at the legal speed limit when a motorcycle comes from the proverbial nowhere and collides with his near-side front wheel.

Arriving home around Dawn in a taxi, his car being undriveable,a voice on his radio-alarm clock is recounting the details of a road traffic accident that sound remarkably familiar. But why should they be featuring his misfortune on local radio? In the great scheme of road traffic accidents in general his was a most minor mishap. At first the details tally: the descriptions of the car and motor-cycle; his name is given - slightly inaccurately, but not enough to cause comment - and the time of the accident. But then the location is way out. Forty miles out, to be precise. Then comes the information that the motorcyclist was a courier delivering a donor heart to a local hospital. Our hero is pretty sure that he was not. But finally, the clincher: our hero died later from freak injuries sustained at the scene. No prizes for guessing what has happened, though. When one part of the bi-locating pair decided on impulse to drive due north, the other drove due south. Interesting, though, that his name was almost the same as his own.

The next few days and weeks were difficult. Things got worse rather than better. Almost it was like mourning, but the worst part was that he still was paralyzed, could not cope with not knowing what came next in the book. Eventually he could stand it no longer. Anticipating that he would not be well received he drove out to see the widow. But was she his widow also, he wondered. He hoped the thought had not occurred to her. He was fortunate this time. He found her in. He commiserated with her, and then, seeing that she was becoming very irritated, came straight to the point: he offered her £1000 for the book, if she still had it. She suggested that, it being the only copy, she thought it might be more valuable than that. Eventually she agreed to sell for £5000. He left with the book under his arm - and a feeling of great elation. At home he opened the book and turned to the last page he had read. Then turned another page and found it blank. Every page from there to the book's end was blank.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Everyone is Someone Else : #1

A man is celebrating his twenty fifth birthday. Half expecting a kiss-o-gram, he is surprised when instead of the usual package, there comes a blonde astride a huge white horse. She smiles, hands him a gift-wrapped package, and then rides around the hall a couple of times, before turning the horse towards the door and disappearing through it, back into the night from whence she came. Excitedly, he rips the paper from the package. Inside the copious wrappings is a book called "Everyone is Someone Else". That night he starts to read the book. It is an autobiography. The writer, though, declares that his identity is not to be revealed. He does not even use a pseudonym, just refers to himself as "me". And then, still on the first page, our hero learns that the final pages of the book will tell the story of the author's death. How can that be? Our reader's mind is in a turmoil. First of all, he cannot get the blonde equestrienne expunged from it, and now he is wrestling with the concept of a man who can write not just the story of his life, but of his death as well. How can that be? Unable to resist, he turns to the back pages and learns that the mystery writer met his end in an industrial micro-wave oven. He then turns back to page one and reads on. Increasingly though, he feels that the writer's identity is identical to his own. Events are replicating those of his own life. How can that be? He has no recollection of ever having written any book, least of all this one. Yet details keep appearing. Personal and intimate details, that only he could know, details that surely could not be true of any other person - like the way the finger nails on his right hand grow twice as fast as those on his left! He must seek out the blonde and hope that she will have some light to throw...

But first he has a most important business trip that will not wait. He packs the book to read it on the plane. Once in the air, he settles down and gets as far as a familiar birthday party and a blonde on a white horse, when a strong call of nature causes him put it down. When he returns to take it up again, the book has gone. He asks passengers in the adjoining seats. No one has seen the going of it. With their permission,s the stewards search for it, examining the travel bags of those sitting nearby. It can't be found. He spends the next week or so in a forlorn attempt to track down another copy. He visits shops and libraries, but no one has heard of the book, so he decides to place an advert in a local paper.

At first he thinks they've printed his text twice over. But not so, he soon comes to realise that a man from a near-by town has placed an advert much the same as his. This other man also was visited by a blonde equestrienne at his twenty-fifth birthday party, was given a book - the same book - and he too, was tempted into reading the final pages early on; he also read to the same point of the book, only to discover that the book had gone missing; he too, came to the same views and found himself asking the same questions as our hero. It follows, thinks the first reader, that until now our lives have run on identical lines, not just mine and the author, but, it seems, mine and his and this other reader also. Probably our two deaths will be as his - in an industrial micro-wave oven. But what I - we, probably - need to know more than anything, is how our lives will run from now until then. Oh, to find another copy of that book!

He feels himself paralyzed, unable to make life decisions until he knows what comes next in the book. Just one idea he has: he'll ring the man who placed the other advert... he'll say he's found the man's book, and would he like to come to lunch to pick it up? This other man, he thinks, might be the key that will unlock the mystery. The conversation does not go as he had planned and he does not use his I've-got-your-book ruse, but never-the-less they chat for ages on the 'phone, exchanging confidences such as ordinarily he would never have exchanged with anyone, never mind a stranger. But then the thought occurs: are they, in fact strangers? It would seem that not only is he, our hero, one and the same person as the book's author, but that so is this second reader of the book. Furthermore, the author having written of his own death, must be someone other than the author. Logically, he cannot be himself. Can one person in some way be two people? Three? Four?

Our hero begins to reason with himself: this is a situation which is clearly impossible - and yet it just as clearly is so. How should the intelligent human being - which I am - deal with such a logical absurdity? Let us call it a singularity, like one of those that exist in black holes in which the normal laws are in abeyance. How does a man's intelligence deal with that? Obviously, he cannot invoke the supernatural... but even as he says that to himself, he finds himself asking: why not? However, before he can begin to answer that last question, he is struck by an even more beautiful idea: the world is a fabulous place in which everything imaginable - and much that is not - is potentially possible. Correction: anything is possible, but not everything. Not all at once. The world is limited only by what the size of the human intellect can allow. So, there was a time when magic and when miracles were possible. Were part of the fabric of the place, in fact. They could strut their stuff with no one saying no. But then it would have been impossible to think the world had four - or more - dimensions. But we can say that now. The brain says yes to all that it can process and says no to all the rest.

That being so, there must come times when we are living on the cusp, when other things are breaking through, but are not quite in place. If not, from where does poetry and music come? All learning, for that matter? And on the cusp are possibilities of slips, of outlaws getting through the brains defenses. There must come times when an event, though banned, gets through and happens out of time. The brain, once having given permission for a photon or an electron to exist in two places at the same time, fails to stop the likes of me from doing the same thing. So let's suppose that I have bi-located. I can exist in one place as this Reader 1 and somewhere else as Reader 2. The problem now is that I am not aware of my other self. Why not? That surely could only happen if we lived identical existences.

to be continued

Friday 25 February 2011

The Hanging Man

Fresh from her triumph at The Biennale,
she's dreaming of ascendency and power.

It's Thursday, and it's Thursdays that she keeps
for him. "This Thursday, you'll know Paradise,"

she'd said - so why should he be late? She counts
the seconds, entertains herself with thoughts

of punishment: slight over-tightenings
of ropes, a twist too far... she knows it works:

it's worked before: a customer too smug
for his own good. She'd known such flames within.

They'd felt like a perversion; smelt like love.
He knocks at last: his double rat-a-tat -

and she had clearly said he was to ring.
Her long lips tighten as the plan takes shape.

Her "Rope World" at Tate Modern changed his life.
Its "Desert After Rain with Stunted Trees" -

and tiny, flowering knots - had brought him face-
to-face with his too long neglected soul.

He'd watched her bind an ox skull there, until
the rope was all there ever seemed of it.

And now he is to be her "Hanging Man".
(He's sold his Jaguar to pay for it.)

Longer than usual, the binding takes:
pride in her craft is tightening each knot.

At last he's ready and she hangs her man -
then is solicitous in checking him.

Visits and absences of equal length,
while he, suspended horizontally,

cocooned in golden thread, breathes ultra-short,
unearthly gasps - the sort that make her pant

for air with him. Her final visit - and
she finds him dead. The paramedics slice

the cords, confirm the fact. Police arrive,
they smirk a bit, then switch. Disinterested

mode takes over, and is then replaced
by earnestness. She's never known them

quite like this before: imploring her to share
with them her loving arts, show them her skills

with ropes to lift the soul to higher planes...
She tells how bonds can slow the blood, close down

the conscious mind, bring visions into play
and deepen prayers. "He was a Holy man,"

she says, a sponge for spite - which she, his friend,
supplied. He'd wanted to evangelize.

She speaks less like a suspect than a girl
possessed of a great passion for her faith -

but quips to interviewing officers:
"A shame for all of us: you can't hang me!"

Thursday 24 February 2011

The train not standing...

The train you travel in arrives -
or it does not arrive - at a small wayside station,
and comes to a stop - or, not having arrived,
it does not stop. If it stops,
there will be people boarding it
and there will be others alighting - or
maybe there will be no-one getting on
and no-one getting off the train.
And it is possible that the train will not go on,
having for the moment nowhere to go, nowhere to get to.
If it does not stop and does not go on, it will not exist.
That seems self-evident. And that being so,
what then will become of you and all the other passengers?
How will you justify your existence?
Or will you, too, have ceased to exist?
Can you exist in a train that does not exist?
Can a train that does not exist hold you? Is it
germane to ask whether the non-existent train
in which you are or you are not travelling
is stationary or is moving as a train should? If, indeed,
you have ceased to exist, then how is the train to reappear?
And where? And under what circumstances?
And yourself: under what circumstances
might you reappear, with or without the train?
Why have you never thought about these things before?

Wednesday 23 February 2011


Our memory films our passing.
And more, it edits it,
selects the pleasant facts.
Thrown back upon that inner screen,
away from all that fashioned it,
it loses sense
It flickers intermittently.
Deep shades of thought and meaning pass before our eyes
but somehow in the video
the deeper feeling dies.
We still, as in a dream, receive
the vicious blow again
and dream-like still
the blow we feel,
but do not sense the pain.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Mappa Mundi

Jingle Poetry's prompt for this week included a video and a poem - both of which I recommend to you, both of which led to the idea for this poem.

The map is of this world, a rock
once natural, which man has cut
and still is cutting like a precious stone,
sometimes with skill so that an aspect
sparkles in the sun, sometimes
in ignorance so that the facet darkens.
Nothing now - not even God -
seems part of what was here
from the beginning; all appears
to have been worked by man.
The scale of this late Mappa Mundi, like the old,
relates to concepts of perceived importance.
Thus, Africa, Afghanistan, The Amazon
and others you could name are smaller than

The Citadel - a fortress built of plexiglass
and filled at all times with a man-made mist.
It occupies the very centre of the world.
Here was Jerusalem portrayed of old.
Ineluctably, the mist leaks out,
conceals the citadel from all who have not
eyes to see. Inside,
made alien by warp and buckle from the mist,
projections of the outside world
are shown in unreal terms.
Here new realities are born, cloned,
mass-produced, destroyed. Men speak
in tongues and understand all languages,
for every form of virtual life is here.
The girl who propositioned you, the one
who showed you to your table... both
were holograms. The rest is video,
TV and games machinery.
Computer-generated smoke -
DO NOT INHALE. Communication,
world wide and beyond, is instantaneous,
but for the colleague standing by your side,
the split screen will translate.

Above the Citadel (cruciform please note), the roll
of honour. And across the intersection of the beams,
the golden names: Walt Disney, Einstein, Eisenstein
and others, all but vanish in the mist.
More visible: enormous tentacles of plexiglass
reach out beyond the Citadel, enclose the world.
Between the largest two and closest to it, sits
Elysium - in fact a nursery
among whose cabbages and radishes,
disturbing their neat rows,
experimental gardeners are trying to grow God -
or aspects of Him
that the world has overlooked -
and claim they are succeeding.
Others are concerned
that rows have been disturbed.
One gardener
is posting on the web
an algebraic proof that God could not
reveal Himself
in vegetable form.
Even for Him
that would be far too lowly.
In the rose bed, a large tea
hides in its perfect shape and symmetry
a growing brain
where pollen sacs should be.
(The bees seem closest to the deity -
explaining their decline, perhaps?)
And on the stalk,
and on the stalks of several more,
where thorns once were, are breasts.
They suckle spiders in the night.
Around the nursery a ring of fire,
keeps predators at bay. (The old
technologies are being resurrected
day by day, one at a time.)

The seas account for nine-tenths of the globe.
(This is true in Mappa Mundi terms
as well as in reality.) Now move across
the North Sea in to what is now New Africa,
and just before you make landfall,
you'll come to London, now below the waves -
though not by much, no more than a few feet
in places, Nelson for example. This is the
last throw of the tourist dice - so some would say.
The unknown hand who drew the map has clearly shown
the glass hulled boats that ply their trade,
allow the pleasure seekers to look down
on all the ancient sights: St Paul's great dome;
the twenty-five fifteen Olympic Games, its athletes
poised to throw, run, hit a ball or mount a horse -
each in the frozen pose in which the waters found them;
and then The London Eye - the story goes that windswept
nights still find it turning in the waves!
What ghosts are there we can but dream...

Arriving at New Africa, you'll see the pen has drawn
the last remaining forests. Depicted as enormous,
continental-sized, because of their imporatnce.
Here scientists are working, redesigning trees
to make them more adaptable. (The same tree needs
to thrive in drought and flood, in ice storms and
in searing temperatures - as well as grow
at many times its natural speed.)

Look closely at the cities, friends. They seem
identical: a seething mish-mash; jumbled lines,
deliberately smudged and blurred, from which emerge,
by means too difficult to analyze, strange terraces
of tenements and palaces, of hovels, shops and factories,
a church or two, a hospital, and all with tidied lawns
How can this be? The artist gives no clue. We must assume
the cities are both beautiful, yet harbour at their cores
some form of chaos. A fractal quality, maybe, one
that a pen could never grasp. Some poke their faces from
the scrum, smile for a moment, then are gone.
The very opposite of any that we've known.

Monday 21 February 2011

Preserved in Amber

From the prompt by 120 socks

preserved in amber

thing of beauty
object of study

preserved in amber

not by any hand of man
for science
on some aesthetic whim
or vanity

a work of nature
at the time
a tragedy

Sunday 20 February 2011

Origin to oblivion

Writers' Island's prompt for this week is the one word: FORETELL. Origin to oblivion is my response:-

A sculptor friend
sees future things
in fallen trees.

There in the spread
of branches or
the scatter of
its leaves - and most
of all, the grace
or not, of how
the trunk is posed,
the posturing
of mind or frame -
is future written large
beyond what cards
or crystal balls
or tea leaves can provide.

Ghosts, he once said,
press us on all sides,
and they control
what's happening,
but they are in
some past or future now.

A fallen tree
is like a man
or woman spawled
in some extremity,
and what has brought
them to that state
lies in their past
or future form.
Like all of us
the trees are on
a progammed course
from origin
to dissolution.
We feel the pull
of destinations.

Our lifelines cross,
and interfere.
We and the trees
each other's ghosts.

I interrupt
the lifeline of
my chosen tree.

In consciousness
of what I do
I can look back
from what it aches
to be, and am
compelled to free
that future form,
bring back the tree
to a new starting point,
a future origin.

Saturday 19 February 2011

When we were young: #1

Somewhere in the mind,
just for a second's fleeting glance,
a part, a sixtieth or less,
a shutter opened, and an image
such as we have not seen since, flashed in.
That was our childhood
and it's gone.
"Ah, but," you say, "the light was different then!
We cannot do that now. It does not look the same."
You are correct, the light was different then,
for we were children and we quarried it.
The light, you might say, was bespoke;
the images were as we wanted them.
We pulled them out like polaroids,
but knew the difference between
the instant and the instantaneous.

Friday 18 February 2011

The last time that I saw him - for The Poetry Bus

Like the government, I got this one wrong. I thought it was from the menu of great prompts which 120 Socks put out for this week's Poetry Bus ride. It wasn't, but perhaps I can argue that it's very like them. At any rate, I'm grateful, because by means of it I have been enabled to write the poem I thought I would never write.

You'd never see him but
his cap was on his head.

At meal times it was there -
even at Ascot and
in bed, it was in place.

Ask how he was: "Hard up
and happy, mate!" he'd say.

Not so, when we last met!
Somehow, the phrase had died.

All that was left of him,
it seemed, was that old cap.

It still sat on his head,
and in addition he
had on a too-big shirt,
blue striped, with a long tail.
That was his full attire.
He'd nothing else to wear.

There was no dignity,
the geriatric ward
was sparse, ill cared for, soiled.

They blamed anaemia
(of the pernicious kind)
for all the change in him.
His memory was shot.

Drugged, he hardly knew us,
but knew he was in Epsom
"Where all the horses are!"

Roaming the ward to find
his best binoculars,
last time I saw him he'd
become half stranger, half
the Grandad I had known.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Are you listening, Planet Earth?

Magpie Tales offered this intriguing image (slightly altered by me!) for this week's prompt.

Space calling Earth.
Space Station Jane
to Mother Earth...

Where are you mum?
Your children need
to hear your voice.
We need advice...

Dear Auntie Jane
has lost the plot
is stripping off
her outer clothes...

The thermal skin
is breaking up -
or so it seems
to us in here.

It's even sheen's
gone negative
and spawned a rash
of dazzling spots.

of light and heat
is now five suns -
and rising still.)

Is this some form
of radiation?
(The instruments
are playing dumb.)

We need advise
on medication.
Poor Auntie Jane's
down to her slip.

A million stars
like sequins glint
and glitter from
the tattered tulle.

The Engineer
is asking: What
goes on - and will
Aunt fall apart?

We'd like to know:
does skin transmute?
Reply, please Earth -
for Aunty's sake!

Some better news!
The "Pepper Pot's" -
The Lander's - sad
attempt to dock...

damage only!
Will be fixed A.
S.A.P. - as
good as ever.

A simple tape
and sealing wax
repair will see
it done real good.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Wild Horses

Edwin Muir was among the very first of my poetry heroes and almost from the beginning his poem The Horses struck me as among his most powerful, and certainly one of his strangest. I began to see an affinity - if that is not claiming too much - during the course of writing Wild Horses and so I offer it as a tribute to him.

That morning there were horses in the field;
all strangers to us, no one knew from where.
Sixteen bronze mustangs, deeply traumatized.
They stood together staring straight ahead,
though some eyes were unfocussed and seemed blind.
They shivered in the cold - or trembled at
the sight of us or what we brought to mind.
Paul used his skills to look them in each eye;
his right to their right, left to each of theirs
(as if he could look straight into their thoughts),
reporting what he saw. And what he saw
astonished us and terrified us all.

He spoke of suns, intensely hot - each one
a staring eye - and felt them burning his.
We heard descriptions of their retinas
alight, consumed by flames of purest black
and smoke from far behind them, billowing
like sails in a high wind - and full of light.
Yet other suns, he saw, were filigreed
with veins from which blood flowed and pooled until
the pools became a flood in which they drowned
or struggled to survive. Mustangs he saw
in deadly combat. With each other, so
it seemed at first - until he saw their eyes.

Our mustangs' eyes were deeply set and black.
The beasts attacking them (in what they must
have thought was privacy) had bulbous eyes
of amber, blue or grey. Harrowing to
see the damage every horse sustained!
In other eyes he watched the mustangs lose
to feral boars whose greater numbers won
the day. A golden mustang in full stride,
he saw. Late evening and a low sun, ever
more intense, the mustang's shadow stretched to
breaking point - except, the horse it was that
went, the shadow left to gallop gamely on.

Others he saw gallop to a cliff edge
and go over, lemming-like, to waiting
deaths (or if they lived, were buried under
rock falls), soft food for those marauding lions.
Some, caged behind a rash of razor wire,
were tearing at it with their hoofs and teeth
until their bloodless forms fell to the ground.
In one eye was a Pegasus in flight
above a choir of golden angels. These
it buried with dark scatter bombs of shame.
In other eyes the mustangs fought, reared up
and boxed each other with their forelegs raised.

In one eye was a horse that backed away
and swung its head until the scene went black.
Then in the oldest mustang's eyes he saw
the tractors and the 'dozers moving in
and levelling the ground. Some colts there were
who stretched themselves before them in the mud,
but were swept up and dumped in pits of lime.
They could not stop the graceless shapes that rose
like old teeth biting into what had been
green skylines full of hope. Then came the rain,
the floods and a new hope: the horses swam.
They came straight from their baptism to us.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

The Gypsy's Testament

Oh my God,
the things I've seen
in crystal balls
you'd not believe!

A man who yearns
for fire - how's that
for starters? One
who thrives on it,
who bathes in it
and walks on it,
consumes it whole
and loves it,
hugs it
half to death -
and sleeps
on burning coals.

And then
I've seen the earth,
a spinning globe -
snug fit inside
the crystal ball.
And inside earth
another world
and inside that...
a score or more
of spinning globes.

I've seen the Saviour
deep in the bowels
of all those spinning globes,
deep in the deepest
sphere of all.
His bleached,
attenuated limbs
reach out
strive to engulf the ball.
The globe contains him,
yet he takes its weight,
the spheres hold him,
and yet he holds the spheres,
the natural law
placed in abeyance
and himself
untouched by fire.

He was not born this way,
but took it to himself,
the role.
I watched his dream unfold
and saw him tremble
like the thin blades on
a tuning fork
with sounds not his
until his limbs caught fire
and he was in
his element.

Sunday 13 February 2011

AN Epiphany : Vermeer meets Braque

Imagine that a painter paints a portrait of himself
and in the distance shows a mirrored image of himself
(rear view)before an easel on which both (the image
and himself) are busy with the larger portrait (a front view)
reflected in the second of two mirrors
(which, being just behind it, the image cannot see)
and tell me which you would most trust for its veracity -
you've one of three (be wary, though, for by your choice
you might define reality).

Now change the metaphor: three ancient manuscripts:
the first is the original. The analogy
is with the painter - who in the case above
is never seen, and in the matter of the manuscript,
exists in fragments and in "reconstructions" of the past
from later copies. Call the painter and the ancient manuscript
The Source. One copy of the document
is close in time to the original (a front,
one quarter view) from which a later copy
(corresponding to the front view of the painter) has come down.

Which will you take as your reality, the self-
depicter's (rear) view, incomplete because the features
are unknown, the now fragmented manuscript?
the self-depicter, out of sight, unknowable? the more
straight-forward image from the glass?

The mirrors show us look-alikes, but not the man.
(No man has seen the world's view of his face.)
It isn't just the blemish in the glass,
it's what can happen to the image when reversed.
(Try holding up this typescript to a glass
and think how with much greater subtlety
it might indeed make changes to your face.)
The look-alikes are filtered through the painter's brain,
the properties of paint and canvas take their toll,
the man is no more human than a doll.

He looks at us, but only sees himself.
We look at him and see a bit of us, a blemish
and what he sees of him.


This is a response to Writers Island's prompt of Epiphany. (Apologies for being late with this link.)

A week in Haiku

writing for children...
he'd have to be brain injured -
Martin Amis

a woman's bare head
a man not focused on work -
Chechnya leader

in Barcelona's streets
never a one to be seen -
Franco's monuments

after this month      nix
no more internet addresses
the protocol full

starry nights are us
say the Channel Islanders -
first Dark Sky Island

They've joined the BoGof -
Morrison's Supermarkets
their Valentine Cards

Saturday 12 February 2011

My Words

the page
pure white

white as driven snow -
until I laid my marks

the words
like awkward footprints

and muddy

trailed across it
line on line

always in the same direction
never coming back

where am I now?
and did I then
desert my words?

leave them in the cold
to die
fend for themselves?

They have to make their way...
or not

it is the law
so be it then

Friday 11 February 2011

sometimes the technology just gets in the way.

Some of you will know that for some time I have been having problems with my computer, among which was its tendency to crash whenever I visited certain blogs. Always the same blogs. There were other problems too, that had begun to mount. So it was that I resolved (after much heart searching - did I really want the hassle?) to acquire a new machine. Eventually, and following long assessment of what the market had to offer, I ordered one direct from the makers. It should have been straight-forward. It wasn't. I knew before I took it from the box that it was going to go back. As I tipped the box slightly to ease the machine out, there came the sound of a definite, and very loud, CLUNK from within said machine. Indeed, whenever I tipped it, it clunked. This is not right, I thought, for I am nothing if not quick on the uptake. Still, I persevered. I thought the manufacturer would probably want me to. I positioned the machine within range of the monitor (I had ordered only the base unit) and went to plug in the afore-mentioned monitor. This proved impossible. Investigation revealed that there were broken pins in the socket holes. These I was able to extract. The plug then went snugly in, and we were in business. Timidly, I pressed the start button. There came the sound of huge butterflies knocking themselves senseless somewhere in the machine. The monitor briefly sprang to life and then stopped. The last two lines read:

Fan Fault
Board Fault.

The thing switched off. I rang the manufacturer. Correction: I looked for a phone number, but could find none save that of the main switchboard, which I had rung once before in a previous life and had no intention of treading that road again. No, I wanted a phone number closer to my destination, say one for disenchanted potential customers. Nothing of the sort could be found. Not in the literature, such as it was, not from my past dealings with said firm, not in the phone book. I emailed them. I got a NO REPLY reply, telling me that the matter would be resolved in a day or two. It wasn't. In fact it still hadn't been resolved as we approached the seven day deadline - i.e. the purchaser's absolute right to return goods bought on the Internet. Swallowing hard and fortifying myself with the smallest possible tot of single malt, I rang the only phone number I had come across, the main switch board - of course - but first I armed myself also with my list of numbers. Each and every contact I had had with the manufacturer had generated a new reference number of incredible length. I had a page in my notebook dedicated to them. It was full. Laid end to end they would have reached to the moon and back. There were customer numbers, order numbers, (note the plurals) and numbers whose names gave no clue as to what they might signify, but I sort of guessed that one or more of these arcane numbers would be required at some point in my dealings with those endowed with the power to resolve my issue.

I thought I knew what I was in for. The dialling tone gave way to an electronic voice introducing the now familiar menu: "If your call is about... ...press 1" I pressed 1, listened again and pressed 1 again. And again. And again. And again, on and on. Oh, for the relief of pressing 2! I persevered and was rewarded by what I at first took to be a real human voice. It wasn't. It was a real recorded human voice introducing the next menu. This was a repeat of the first menu, not in its instructions, but in its structure. I sat there, dutifully listening and pressing the inevitable 1. And then: "If your business is to do with... please key in your..." I froze. The voice was asking for a number to which I had not been introduced, which was not on my carefully prepared list. It would, the voice informed me, be a number of 19 or 21 digits. (Ah, a short one, good! What am I talking about? How does that help?) Followed by: "If you do not know where this number is to be found... press2!" Oh, the joy of it! To be allowed to press a number other than 1! The joy was short lived: the number was on the rear of the computer on the right hand side. The computer was, of course, back in its box, back in all its packaging. The box was sealed. I hung up. Unpacked the box, and... yes, there was the number, right where the voice had said it would be.

I went back to the phone. I started the whole process again from square 1. I got as far as keying in my new-found number - and the line went dead. Third time lucky. On this occasion I went the whole distance and was rewarded with... yes... a real live bloke who was, it must be said, extremely helpful. I related the whole sad tale. "Well, what would you like us to do?" he asked. I explained that I would like them to collect the non-functioning computer and either give me my money back or, better still, a replacement computer. "Would you not like us to see if we can mend it for you?" he inquired. (His phraseology did not exactly inspire confidence.) "No, I do not feel I can trust this particular machine," I said. "I am not convinced that it is a Bona Fide new machine." He made soothing noises and declared that he quite understood. Alas, he was not authorised to give me a replacement machine, but he could return my cash. To get a replacement, I would have to... only I could see where this was leading. Take the cash and run, I thought. He passed me on to an equally pleasant and helpful lady who sorted me out in no time at all. Well, it was a little time, to tell the truth. It was nearly a week before they could collect the computer, and three working days after that before the money would appear in my bank account. Three working days turned out to be three to five working days which translated as six working days, but at last the money did appear.

I then decided that I would buy the new machine from a reliable source that I could deal with rather more easily - Tesco. They can deal with the suppliers if it goes pear-shaped again, I thought. I will deal with them. I like their returns policy. I almost bought the same model as I had nearly bought from the makers, but no, in the end I bought an Acer - on which I am typing this, on which I have been visiting your blogs, even those on which formerly I was crashing - that is, the computer was crashing, but it felt like me!

Thursday 10 February 2011

fish and mash

the rhododendrons
footprints lead to them     paws return

my "aunt's" lost purse
found some weeks later by a friend
safely guarded by a fox
in its shoe box laid among
chewed gloves wet papers and old coins

when love turns sour...

The trees knew of our coming.
In that secret way the trees possess
they knew of us and welcomed us.

God made the wind
that they might wave
a greeting to us when we came.

And do they wave in friendship still,
in fury or in sadness at the way
we've butchered them?

The land knew of our coming.
In that secret way the land has
it knew us from the first.

God gave the land its greenery
that it might spread a carpet
for us when we came.

And has it still those feelings,
now that we have raped
it half to death?

The sea knew of our coming.
In that secret way that water has,
it hugged us, would not let us go.

So God set up a tryst for us
that it and we might grow
a romance that would last.

And is the love still mutual
now that it's felt the power
of what is human and obscene?

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Love All

What did we do
to render God so impotent?
How did he come to this:
surrendering the match?
We crucified his son...
but that could not be it:
he rolled us over then
and took the opening set.

But something happened next:
his service let him down?
The way Ted Hughes has told it,     O
we tightened all the screws
and turned up all the pain
'til he could not believe
what we had done to him,
or what he had become.

He was in shock - of sorts -
not comprehending how
his own kids could behave
in such outlandish ways -
like sluts from down the road.
These day we'd say
his focus had been lost.
We wiped the floor with him,

just base line sloggery with no finesse.
He'd boasted he'd come back.
Some sort of tie-break? Can
you credit that? -
Too late. The crowd went home -
and who could blame them, eh?
They hadn't paid their cash
to see that sort of show.

(O His poem A God)

Tuesday 8 February 2011

3 Haiku

they know the inner life
perhaps more feebly than ourselves -
dolphins jays and chimps

breast cancer explosion
such a beautiful image
juxtaposed in the news

toppled by the wind
contents spilt      iced to the ground -
the recycle bins

Monday 7 February 2011

The Conscious Hills

The meme supplied by Writers Island was the one word Beguile

The dust of generations fills these hills.
It's blown by winds, but moves in ways that fill
the mind with awe - or would, were we aware
of how it shapes so many features here,
of how it isn't simply dust, how nothing
in this world is quite as simple as itself.
There's something there that's active on behalf
of us and what the world prescribes. It's just
as much alive as strontium. The dust
knows nothing of a half life, but survives
its scatterings and burials to form
itself again. It formed us once, as we
formed it, and it will form our heirs - but make
them unlike us. It draws and redraws blue-
prints, score on score, as do all things
of flesh - and those of granite, too. They do
it in the way they act, respond to this,
our world. How else did shape and movement come
about? How else did we reach consciousness?
Are we more conscious than the dust? Perhaps.
The difference is in the measure, not
the kind. We are beguiled to think there is
no consciousness. Without it is no chance
to be deceived - not even by ourselves.

Sunday 6 February 2011

I be witness.

Yes, sure I saw it coming down, but now
you want to know my thoughts on it, young man?
They's rather scrambled just at present, but
I'll tell thee what I saw: first off, a clear
blue sky, as blue as ever was, the sun
an eyeball that you wouldn't look straight at -
not unless thee wanted to go blind. And
then it all goes dark, all sudden like. A
big black shadow spreads across the fields. Well,
bugger me, I thought. Big thing between me
and the sun, there was. Not far off, and not
far off the ground - a bloody great Noahs Ark
up in the sky. No wonder it's gawn dark!
That's what I thought. Well, I could see the crew -
or some of 'em maybe - and animals.
Them's in the hull. The men - if that's the word -
they's one deck up. Great picture windows they
be looking out. Yes, sure I watched it as
it dropped. I couldn't look away, and that's
a fact. It rocked from end to end, as if
the pilot was not steady in his hands
or like the sea was getting rough. Summat
like that! It knocked me sideways - fact nummer
Two! The crew looked much like us. Not green, no,
not in the least like that. Bit leathery,
like they had hide for skin. And then their arms
reminded me of lobsters... then pads where
we has fingers. Stuff sticks to them or not,
just as they wished, it seemed to me. And then
the beasts, they too was much like ourn, jist
diff'rent breeds, you might say. Breeds I'se never
seen before - and that's fact nummer three!

An' then, Gawd knock me sideways once again,
the thing was gawn. I means it. Jist like that.
Plain, bloody gawn it was. But not the beasts.
There they all was, large as life, a-grazing
and a-chumping at my corn and trees, like
there was no tomorrow. Like they had jist
been rescued from some great disaster and
then dumped there on my land for now, whiles Noah
and his crew are away to save some more.
And then... I have to say... I wondered - could
it be that there's a planet out there, much
worse off then ourn? That they be making us
their refuge for a while... Could that be it?

Saturday 5 February 2011

2 Haiku

they swept the paths clean
and muddied the patio -
last night's wind and rain

they made themselves heard
even above the wind's noise -
the cats and foxes

Friday 4 February 2011

This is the prompt for this week from Magpie Tales

My apologies if I am not seen around quite so much for a day or two: I am in the throes of setting up a new computer, exploring the mysteries and wonders of Windows 7 and - more to the point - re-establishing the network!

Put your cash in bricks
my Grandpa used to say -
though Grandma wouldn't let him.
I see it from both angles:
collectively bricks can beguile,
seduce the not-too-wary, make
all the right approaches with
their artful colourings,
their patterns and their textures,
subtle weathering
and how they look so solid
and dependable. We're here,
they seem to say,
for the long haul.

They are a perfect metaphor
for all that seeks -
collectively - to lure
us from the wider world
the way that words may do
or painted shapes
or harmonies of sounds.
We ply the trowel and brick
by brick confine ourselves
like priests of old
in tiny holes
away from sumptuous rooms.

Thursday 3 February 2011

The Disillusioned Archaeologist

I have walked these moors at night
and walked the Cornish cliffs at night
and not disturbed a single bone
(as far as I could know)
of those who lie below.

And should I then dig down below,
disturb the bones to better know
the Arthur's and the Guineveres
who walked these hills
so long ago?

If I could dig deep in these hills
and find there in some ancient grave
the bones of what is yet to come,
those bones I would disturb and save
and savour all my days.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

On finding an idol-shaped pebble on a beach

Little stone god
small as a pebble
are you controlling
the fate of the world?

Little pink god
fallen from heaven
how large were you there?
how small are you now?

Little lost god
how shall you return?
Shall you burn, baby burn
in the Father's stern gaze?

Little veined god
is it blood that I see -
or a depth that will deepen
the spirit in me?

Little loved god
I'll not throw you back
I'll treasure the fortune
that brought you to me.

Little lewd god
how tactile you feel
when my fingers caress you
all stress disappears.

Little dumb god
it's silent you are...
your siblings still rattle
around on the beach.

Little bright god
polished by seas
you shine like a sun -
a sun cold as ice.

Little proud god
yet hungry for love
if all the world loved thee
would that be enough?

Little stone god
a stone like the stones
that cover the beach -
Oh, commonplace god!